题目 Contest Sentence:
“The prisoners in the most distant camps were mistreated by their guards and many of them expired from lack of physical sustenance.”
正确解答 Answer: We believe the best revision is… “The prisoners in the most distant camps were mistreated by their guards and many of them starved to death.”
This sentence reduces the word count to 19 from 22 by substituting three words, “starved to death,” for six words, “expired from lack of physical sustenance.” There probably is little argument that the new rendering of the sentence is superior. Why , then, do writers often go the wordier route to make a point about death? They do so either to express the special significance of a particular death event—after all, death always is significant—or to express the thought in a way they believe is more memorable.
将原本“expired from lack of physical sustenance”（ 因缺乏身体营养断气）换为“starved to death”（饿死）后，句子字数由22 个字缩短为19 个字，新的句子无疑优于原句。说起来，为什么许多作者提及死亡时多半文句冗长？因为他们想表达死亡这件事很重要，死亡意义更是重大，或者想用更令人难忘的方式表达。
Sometimes they succeed in this. Not this time. To say the prisoners “expired from lack of physical sustenance” is not pleasing or moving to read; “expired” and “physical sustenance” are stilted and colorless euphemisms. Writers also sometimes ignore simpler sentence construction or more direct language for another reason: They want to avoid repetitive use of words or phrases. While that is not a bad motive for a thoughtful writer, if the result is bloated or vapid expression, it is a bad choice.
有时这些表达确实令人印象深刻，但此句不然，描写犯人“expired from lack of physical sustenance”（因缺乏身体营养断气），读来既不讨喜也不感人，“expired”（断气）和“physical sustenance”（身体营养）都是委婉语，听来做作又无趣。此外，有时句构复杂、用字拐弯抹角，是为了避免用字重复。这么想确实思虑周延，用意良好，但若造成字数浮滥、了无生气，就不是理想作法。
Please note: To write “many of them starved,” rather than “many of them starved to death” does not work. The last two words are not redundant. Neglected and persecuted captives can be starved for years and yet emerge alive at the end of their captivity. Hunger is not a killer until a level of undernourishment actually shuts down body systems. In the same sense, writers should strive to write shortly and directly, but not so severely that pertinent information is sacrificed.
注意不要将 “starved to death”（ 饿死） 改为 “starved”（ 挨饿），“to death” 两字是必要的。囚犯若受到忽视、迫害，可能挨饿多年，但刑期结束时仍能生还。饥饿不会致人于死，除非过度营养不良导致身体器官无法运作。写作时要尽可能简短直接，但不能因过于简短而牺牲相关讯息。